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Wandering Culture

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The Rhowari, or Rovers as they are commonly called, are a group of people without a permanent home. To them, the open road is the only home they will ever need, traveling the world of Cairn in a lifelong pilgrimage to cleanse themselves of worldly temptations and the corruption of civilization.

A culture that spends its days wandering with no fixed home.

The group is usually persecuted, or at least distrusted in the lands they travel through, because of their nomadic ways. They tend toward the mystical side of things, although they're rarely an entire race of Wandering Wizards. They might believe in witchcraft, psychics, fortunetelling, or other superstitions not held by the majority, but they aren't necessarily any more talented at it.

Whether or not the people choose not to have a permanent home varies: some find it spiritually valuable to move among many groups of people, while others were uprooted decades or centuries ago by prejudice and oppression and deprived of their ancestral lands.

These cultures are generally portrayed positively and assist the protagonists, who may join them for a time on their quests and seek their guidance, as they are often keepers of old traditions nearly wiped out and will remember lost knowledge and legends the protagonists need to hear. As such, these people often function as an Aesop Enforcer or contain a Hermit Guru. They're also likely to provide a Bedouin Rescue Service.

When the protagonist actually hails from the culture instead of being an outsider, protecting and reviving its traditions will usually be a major factor in their motivations, and they will generally be separated from their fellows.

Many of these societies will be Born in the Saddle, if they move over land, or Born Under the Sail, if they're sailors by inclination. If they have any kind of formal settlements, they'll often be some kind of Mobile City. In fantasy and science-fiction genres, this trope is often a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Turkic Peoples, Romani or Irish Travellers—or, more likely, stereotypes of them.

Supertrope to Space Nomads, which is this trope IN SPACE (go there for examples of that). Compare Walking the Earth, which is about a singular character, and Magical Romani, which may overlap.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Mushishi has the Watari, a tribe dedicated to observing the light flow of the land. Having no permanent home, they go where the flow is strongest and live there until the light flow wanes. Some members also make a living off of letting others know about peak Kouki activity in certain areas.
  • Tales of Wedding Rings has the catfolk, whose original homeland of Needakitta was destroyed by the Abyss King. After he was defeated, the dwarves helped the catfolk build a Mobile City to act as their new home, and the Needakitta catfolk have been roaming the world ever since.

  • Beast Fables: Certain weremammal nations, such as elephants, are constantly migrating. The closest things they have to settlements are portions of cities ruled by non-nomadic people.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: The orcs of the dwarven mountains do this to avoid being hunted down by the dwarfs as easily, as Ami explains when talking about her potential orc recruits to people to warn them:
    Nomadic orcs live in the mountains.

  • Grass: A 1925 documentary—one of the first feature-length documentaries ever made, in fact—about the Bakhtiari tribe, a group of herders, as they make their annual winter pilgrimage from Anatolia to Persia, where there are winter grasslands for pasturing their animals.

  • The Belgariad: The Algars are Born in the Saddle to the extent that they follow their horse herds and refuse to domesticate them. They have one city, but no one lives there and it was built as a distraction, to give their enemies something to attack other than the wandering tribes.
  • The Chronicles of Dorsa:
    • The Terintan desert nomads from Terinto, Joslyn's people, who travel constantly around as they herd their animals. Most everyone else in the Empire views them as superstitious barbarians, but also being tough warriors (which is true).
    • The tinkers are wanderers too, the name deriving from many men fixing things, but the women are fortune tellers. Many men are also traders.
  • Circleverse: Daja's people, the Traders, are nomadic merchants who live in caravans or trade ships. A lot of their customs are based on the Roma, including less-portrayed ones like strict taboos (Daja is made an unperson due to being the Sole Survivor from her family's shipwreck, since they believes she's cursed as a result with some incredibly bad luck), and ritual purification must be done if they're ever violated. However, unlike in most portrayals they're black people.
  • Earthsea has the Children of the Open Sea, a tribe of raft-dwellers who only come to land once every year, when they need to cut some trees for their homes. They provide a Bedouin Rescue Service to the heroes in the third book.
  • In The Fire's Stone, Chandra, Darvish, and Aaron run into the Shoi people who assist them on their quest, who are a culture of wanderers that Aaron has met before in his own homeland. They are noted for perhaps having magic and being a race of wizards, but Aaron knows better.
  • John Carter of Mars: The Green Martians are nomads, and are the only ones of the five main races of Barsoom to live this kind of lifestyle.
  • Judy's Journey is a children's novel about a 10-year-old girl and her family, who out of desperation and poverty are forced to become migrant farm workers. Many migrants do it out of desperation, like Judy and her family, but for others it's a more permanent lifestyle. Judy meets one family that has been migrating for years and has earned themselves a rather nice mobile home to live in.
  • In The Kingkiller Chronicle, Kvothe is from the Edema Ruh, a Romani Fantasy Counterpart Culture, that travels in wagons their entire lives and values storytelling and keeping old stories alive.
  • The Lord of the Rings: In the town of Bree, Frodo and his friends learn about the Rangers, described by the innkeeper Butterbur as "the wandering folk", who live a wandering life in the wide and sparsely populated lands of Eriador between Bree and the Misty Mountains. The Ranger Strider especially is described by Butterbur as "disappearing" and returning to Bree at irregular intervals and without any apparent explanation. The inhabitants of Bree consider the Rangers as mysterious and suspicious, although overall their attitude towards them is ambivalent, as Butterbur admits that Strider "can tell a rare tale when he has the mind". Eventually the hobbits learn that the distrust against the Rangers is very much unjustified and that the Rangers are really the last remaining Dúnedain of Arnor, i.e. descendants of the Númenóreans and the former ruling class of the defunct kingdom of Arnor, and are actually protecting the peoples of Bree and the Shire from orcs and trolls invading Eriador from the Misty Mountains.
  • A Memoir by Lady Trent: The Ghalb have a culture distinct from other Akhian tribes, largely based on the Bedouin. They have no territory of their own, but practice a nomadic lifestyle, paying a fee for safe passage through other tribes' lands. They are forbidden from owning horses, and most don't even own camels, only sheep and donkeys. Because they don't wage war with other tribes and travel all across Akhia, they are sometimes employed as guides by other tribes. Despite this, other Akhians look down on them as "carrion-eaters" because they do not slaughter their meat according to Segulist or Amaneen law.
  • In A Queen Of Gilded Horns, the Roune Lands are full of "roving bands of thieves," most notably the Tribe which keeps the old khimaer magic and traditions alive after they were routed from their own kingdom, and are faithful to one day reclaiming their country and roaming no more.
  • In Redwall, the Guosim are a tribe of argumentative warrior shrews who roam the waterways of Mossflower Woods in logboats and frequently give aid to the protagonists on their quests and in defence of Redwall Abbey.
  • Talion: Revenant: Many of the Uls (people descended from disinherited royalty) live this way. The Ulbands are travelers who live in painted wagons, often living as fortunetellers, with their vehicles and clothing known for having vivid colors. Given there is a lot of prejudice toward them as some uls have started civil wars trying to take their thrones back, there is some similarity with Roma and Irish Travellers.
  • Villains by Necessity: The Gypsies, naturally, who are basically all the Romani stereotypes transplanted into the book's universe: they are nomads who live in painted wagons, have an old woman who's a fortune teller who's really capable of seeing into the future at least somewhat, and a boy who pickpockets Sam (though he's just showing off-he gives back Sam's pouch immediately). In the book they're always portrayed very sympathetically as Sam is inspired to keep going on the quest as the forces of "Good" might repress their culture over not confirming to their rigid Knight Templar morals otherwise.
  • The Wheel of Time: The Tuatha'an (or as most people within the story call them, the Tinkers or the Traveling Folk,) are a nomadic culture based on real-life Irish Travellers, down to the 'tinker' slur and the reputation for being dishonest. Their name is inspired by Old Irish words meaning "people of." They're known for their devotion to pacifism even under threat of death. They travel the world in brightly-painted caravans of wagons in search of 'the Song', which they believe will bring about the return of the Age of Legends. They're widely distrusted due to a reputation of thievery, as well as being blamed as kidnappers when non-Tuatha'an choose to leave their homes to join them in traveling.
  • Reborn: The church of Suoduny— the god of fate and seers— doesn't have a stationary temple. Instead, the priesthood wanders around in nomadic camps and are guided by visions on where they should go.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has the Harfoots in the Second Age — who are the ancestors of the modern Hobbits from the Shire — survive via stealth, moving from place to place, setting up temporary camps and moving on when resources run out, or danger approaches.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): The Tuatha'an are nomads who constantly travel around to look for a song, doing work to sustain themselves in the meantime. Many people distrust them as a result, wrongly believing they're thieves. However, in fact they're strictly pacifist and benevolently let strangers into their midst.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cyberpunk: The Nomads are descendants of the US citizens who chose not to reintegrate into the NUSA after the collapse of the original United States. Instead, they band together in large clans and rove the wastelands that span the space between megacities of North America in heavily-customized cars and trailers.
  • Basic Dungeons & Dragons BECMI D&D module CM1 Test of the Warlords: Nomadic barbarian tribes wander the land of Norwold year-round. As long as dominion leaders allow them free passage, the barbarians won't cause any trouble. If the dominion leaders do try to block them, they could go to war.
  • The Dark Eye: The two main human cultures of this kind, Norbards and Zahori, are strongly inspired by jewish and romani culture respectively. To a lesser degree, the Nivesian culture (fantasy counterpart to Finish), who travel the northern continent alongside their deer herdes twice a year, qualifies. On the non-human side, there are the horse-riding Steppe Elves and most of the traditional Orcish clans.
  • Exalted: The Delzahn are a majority-nomadic group of tribes (while there are some who live in permanent cities, the relations between them and the nomadic tribes are poor). They're Born in the Saddle, with a test of horsemanship being the Rite of Passage for male Delzahn, though they don't exclusively ride horses — camels and large emus are also popular mounts.
  • Ravenloft: The Vistani are heavily inspired by the real-life Romani. They mostly make a living travelling between the domains of dread, trading in jewelry and rare goods, or doing small jobs for locals. While they were considered suspicious-to-outright villainous in earlier editions, 5e rewrote them as being seen with some suspicion, but also a welcome change of pace in the otherwise monotonous lives of Ravenloft's denizens. Until Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, they were also afflicted by a curse that made them unable to stay in one place for long.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: The Centigors' inability to craft any kind of material goods or structures, combined with their resilient horselike bodies, leads to them living nomadic lives on the steppes and the ragged edges of the Old World's northern forests, finding what little shelter they need in rocky hollows and copses of trees before moving on.

    Video Games 
  • The Dalish elves in the Dragon Age setting are nomadic, although not entirely by choice; they keep moving around both to avoid potential conflict with humans (many of whom do not especially like elves) and also to keep their mages from catching the attention of the Chantry and being forced into Circles of Magi.
  • Endless Legend has the Roving Clans faction, nomadic traders who build their cities on the backs of giant Setseke scarabs that can get up and move across the map.
  • Grim Dawn: The Rhowari, colloquially known as Rovers, are a nomadic culture who travel throughout the entire world in what is essentially a neverending, lifelong pilgrimage. Their prophet, the First Traveler, was once King Rhowan of Arkovia, who was warned by a god that his lands would be struck with unavoidable doom due to their obsession with lands, titles, and showy belongings; Rhowan abdicated, renounced his lands, and walked away only with what he could carry, with the Rovers' predecessors doing the same and following him, leaving Arkovia and its remaining, skeptical denizens to their doom. Nowadays they're one of the more abundant post-Dawn factions, as their nomadic lifestyle has thoroughly prepared them for such an apocalyptic event.
  • Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade: Sacae is home to numerous nomadic tribes primarily comprised of Horse Archers, such as Sue of the Kutolah tribe.
  • In the Lonely Wolf Treat series, the wolves in Treat's pack build temporary homes out of snow and tear them down whenever they decide to move. They do this because they don't want other animals to settle near them.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon: The Seafolk are a seafaring people that spend most of their lives traveling the ocean aboard houseboats, with Seafolk Village being one of the places where they come to trade.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds: Unlike most other races in F'num, the majority of the Cattlekind and Alpake clans don't live in a fixed location, and are always moving while living off the land within The Prairie and The High Plains, respectively.
  • The Quarians in Mass Effect. They were exiled from their homeworld by the Geth, leading them to wander from system to system in the Flotilla, a massive collection of starships.

    Web Original 
  • Hamster's Paradise: The Harmsters are the first sapient species to evolve on HP-02017 and are divided into four separate species. The most widespread of these are the Savannah Harmsters, who live a nomadic lifestyle due to them primarily feeding on large herding animals. One culture known as the Pyromaniacs have also had a very profound effect on the ecosystem due to their fire-based hunting strategy and nomadic lifestyle burning large swaths of land and leading to several extinctions and displacements.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Air Nomads have no fixed abode. While there are four air temples, the peaceful, meditative culture that held wisdom the world now mostly lacks, found value in traveling the world and meeting all types of people from all walks of life.
    • In The Legend of Korra, it's revealed that after defeating Ozai, Aang founded a group called the "Air Acolytes", composed of nonbenders who decided to follow the Air Nomad culture out of respects to him.
  • Castlevania (2017) has the Speakers, a group of traveling altruistic sages who always try to help people around them in spite of being constantly scapegoated by them. They are likely a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Jews and, to a lesser extent, of the Romani.

    Real Life 
  • There are several real-world cultures that have been nomadic or otherwise wandering.
    • The Romani, who have wandered from India all across Europe and Asia and even the Americas.
    • In the time between the fall of Jerusalem in the 2nd century and the founding of Israel in the 20th century, the Jewish people have fit this trope to an extent. They found themselves scattered across Eurasia and occasionally expelled from different countries. Somewhat downplayed as they often lived in settled cities.
    • The original Arabs from Neo-Assyrian times and before were a nomadic people, and traditionally shunned settled civilization. Some of them eventually decided to settle, but others never gave up their original way of life, thus becoming the first Bedouins.note 
  • The Eurasian Steppe, from ancient times to the early modern period, was nomad central, since the climate and ecology have historically made it very difficult to have permanent settlements. A lot of the famous groups that inspired the Hordes from the East trope - Turks, Huns, Mongols, Scythians, and the like - hailed from this region. Many of them established large, nomadic empires that posed a challenge to their settled neighbours. However some of these groups (especially the Turks) would later become settled themselves.

Alternative Title(s): Nomadic Culture